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Isabella Lövin opens The Ocean Conference preparatory meeting in New York

On 15 February 2017, Minister for International Development Cooperation and Climate Isabella Lövin opened The Ocean Conference preparatory meeting at the United Nations headquarters in New York. The Ocean Conference will be held on 5–9 June and, in its capacity as co-President together with Fiji, Sweden aims to incentivise stakeholders to form ambitious voluntary commitments to step up work on sustainable oceans, which are crucial to both combating poverty and promoting economic development.

Two years ago, Sweden and Fiji sowed the seeds for a unique conference to save the global marine environment. The critical situation that included acidification, littering, emissions and overfishing required a new approach. This resulted in the Ocean Conference – the first of its kind to focus solely on one goal of the UN development agenda. Ms Lövin opened The Ocean Conference preparatory meeting together with Fiji's Minister for Fisheries Semi Koroilavesau and UN General Assembly President Peter Thomson.

"Saving our oceans requires global leadership now. The situation is urgent. The trend we are seeing with overfishing, emissions and littering means that unless we do something by 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans," says Ms Lövin.

Sweden and Fiji want to mobilise and accelerate engagement on sustainable ocean management and development to strengthen sustainable development in the most vulnerable countries and regions. The sustainable oceans, seas and marine resources goal is central to the entire UN development agenda and is closely linked to other goals, such as combating poverty, food security, combating climate change, sustainable production and consumption, and supply of clean water and sanitation for all.

"Oceans are of vital importance to our survival and that of the entire planet. They are a crucial source of protein for the world's poorest people. Failing to save the oceans will lead to widespread global insecurity," says Ms Lövin.

The Ocean Conference in June will be an important platform for all stakeholders – civil and knowledge society, the business community and Member States – to show their strong engagement and pledge concrete voluntary commitments to step up work on implementing Sustainable Development Goal 14 on sustainable oceans, seas and marine resources. Since the deadline for several of the targets is either 2020 or 2025, finding effective and innovative solutions is even more urgent. This kind of broad global mobilisation will give the international community a coherent overview of how far countries as a whole have come towards achieving the goal, and at the same time identify where major efforts are needed.

"We want all countries to present their action plans and identify where measures are needed so that our oceans are sustainable by 2030, as the development agenda prescribes and as they have all agreed to," says Ms Lövin.

For Sweden, three areas in particular are prioritised:

  • Marine littering is a growing problem in Sweden and around the world, and the situation is particularly worrying when it comes to plastics that originate from land based sources but end up in the ocean and are there degraded to microplastics.
  • Sustainable fishing is another area Sweden is focusing on. Overfishing and illicit fishing are emptying the oceans of life. Some 90 per cent of marine fish stocks are overfished or fished to their limit (WWF).
  • The third priority area is to clarify the link between climate and ocean management issues. This winter, the temperature in the Arctic has been 20 degrees higher than normal. The marine environment is extremely sensitive to higher temperatures, and there is a now risk that the entire Arctic ecosystem – from plankton to polar bears – will collapse.

Sweden particularly wants to highlight the challenges facing the world's poorest and most vulnerable countries, regions and populations. This applies especially to the least developed countries (LDCs) and small island developing states (SIDS).

An overarching aim of these priorities – and for the preservation of marine biodiversity – is to also stop climate change and restore and protect coastal ecosystems. Developing regional seas cooperation is also a fundamental requirement for achieving sustainable oceans.

The preparatory meeting in New York gives thousands of leaders from civil and knowledge society, the business community, foundations and Member States a chance to meet to discuss these issues. The agenda also includes discussions on the content of an intergovernmental political declaration on sustainable oceans, and also which themes should be the basis for the partnership dialogues that will be held during the Conference in June. The dialogues are to lead to broad, concrete recommendations on commitments and partnerships to achieve the goal on sustainable oceans.

"Implementing the 2030 Agenda requires everyone's involvement. This includes the business sector, organisations and private persons. Everyone can take part and make changes at different levels," says Ms Lövin.